I started off my 2014 Fantasy Baseball Preview with a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates top position battle- their completion in right field.
I continue my look at each team’s top spring training position battle by staying in the National League Central and look at the pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals.
All eyes should be on the right field position when the Cardinals head to Jupiter, Florida.
And while all eyes are on the right field position, which means all eyes should be on prized prospect Oscar Taveras.
If Taveras, widely-considered as one of the top two prospects in baseball heading into last season, shows that he’s back to form after battling an ankle injury that hampered him in 2013, he could win the right field job outright.
So while Cardinals manager Mike Matheny can go in either direction, this will all likely come down to who has the better cam between Taveras and Adams.
Fantasy owners have a right to be high on both guys.
Adams posted an .839 OPS and 17 homers in a semi-regular role as a rookie in 2013 and his power bat will play nicely in a deep Cardinals lineup.
He may turn into a guy with a pretty high strikeout rate, fanning in 80-of-296 at bats last season, but he could turn into a hitting machine as he hit for a .284 AVG and posted a nice .335 OBP to go along with his .505 SLG numbers a season ago.
Keep this in mind when looking at the ceiling for Adams.
He posted a 17.4 HR/AB ratio last season which ranked him 16th among all big league players. In addition, Adams showed the ability to hit to all fields better than many thought he was capable of as he hit .326 in the 24 games after Craig’s injury.
Given the massive power upside to Adams, I just can’t envision a scenario where he doesn’t open the season as the Cardinals every day first baseman.
While Taveras has all the tools, it is likely he begins the year in the minors unless he explodes in spring training. That way the Cardinals can ease him into things when the time is right at the MLB level.
That doesn’t mean fantasy owners should ignore him though.
Taveras posted a career .895 OPS in over 1,400 career minor-league at bats and he is as talented a hitter as there is in the minors and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if he wins a big league job out of spring training.
Prediction: Early on I still see Taveras beginning the season in the minors and wouldn’t have him in my Top 80 outfielders to start the season. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take him late and stash him because I do feel that he will make a big impact by mid-season.
As for Adams, I like him for a breakout season and currently have him ranked among my Top 15 first baseman. He could continue to climb that ladder with a big spring. He will build off a successful close to the 2013 season and his power upside is too great for fantasy owners to ignore.